THOUGHTS OF AN INSOMNIAC

Did I lock the deadbolt? What’s my favorite kind of cheese? Whatever happened to that cast member from “The Real World Hawaii”? How many books have I read this year? That moonrise in Alaska was one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. What does it take to become a Canadian citizen? Small talk has completely died now that everyone has smartphones. I hope my daughter gets financial aid, a couple scholarships, and doesn’t let losers take advantage of her once she’s in college. My nephew is the most adorable toddler on the planet. Mmmmm…a bagel with cream cheese sounds delicious right now. No wait! A chocolate Croissant from Starbucks. Why is anyone thinking we can live on Mars? That’s the dumbest idea ever. Scott Pruitt pisses me off. Betsy DeVos too. I need to make a donation to The Committee to Protect Journalists. How many licks DOES it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Should I get up and shower now? What book do I want to read next? Why do so many artists and actors OD or commit suicide? The next time I organize the closet, I have to get rid of that quilt. It’s bulky and takes up tons of space. “Garden State” is still one of my favorite movies. It would be amazing to hang out with Mike D and Ad-Rock. Does David Sedaris have a reading coming up soon? I am stoked for the Kings of Leon concert. Why is summertime such a waste land for TV viewing? How old would John Lennon be if he were still alive? I wonder if he would have reunited with Paul McCartney to sing duets. What’s on my to-do list for today? I am going to need a nap. Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me. Can’t sleep.  Clowns will eat me. Mmmmm…donuts.

BEGGING FOR ANSWERS

I came of age in the era
of argyle socks
and plaid shirts
stolen from your father’s closet.

We stopped before school
to fill Super Big Gulp cups
with frothy Orange Bang!
which we kept in our lockers all day.

We didn’t realize
that MTV would soon cease
to be music television
and would peddle us “Jersey Shore”.

There was no comprehension
of intrawebs and internets,
and the smart phones
our children gobble up like Candy Crush.

I think about the pivotal moment
when he filled three pages of my yearbook
with a break-up message
that I didn’t fully comprehend until age 38.

I sometimes remember
the way he smelled like Play-Doh
and combed his hands
through my wet hair.

Then I wander to the artist
with the wire-framed glasses
who tasted like Budweiser
and smelled like paint thinner.

They tell us not to look back,
but they also say if you don’t examine the past
you’re doomed to repeat it.
So which is it, huh?

THE INNOCENCE OF BEING OBLIVIOUS

The summer the Idaho potato fields
lay spread out before us
and the world was ours for the taking,
we met the tall one in the mall parking lot.
There were no smart phones or Google maps.
We didn’t even have a paper map.
Talking Heads was on the radio
and it was the summer before our senior year.
I should have had sights set on the dark-headed boy,
with the slight lisp and sincere eyes.
Instead, my focus was
the broken-hearted, harder to crack veneer.
He’d been my mission since day one.
We spent inordinate amounts of time
in his basement that trip:
listening to music,
making each other laugh,
cuddling on his water bed.
We didn’t know where his parents were,
and we didn’t ask.
Even though it was innocuous,
it felt like we were pushing boundaries.
Doing something daring.

We went ice blocking down Simplot hill,
a vast swath of property in the midst of Boise
with a mansion perched atop.
A city conquered.
Security must have been lax,
because the more we slid down the hill
with our hair flying behind us,
and the more trees we climbed,
the freer we felt.
No sign of a reprimand.

The river flowed around us seamlessly.
Our inner-tubes bobbed along,
like Halloween party apples in a bucket.
But there was an unspoken surface tension,
that I mistook as the thrill of being on the river.
Your first kiss
should have been with someone better,
someone who didn’t claim to be “rebounding.”
Knowing the situation now,
the pictures speak volumes.
I often think about the innocence
of being oblivious
and frequently wish that was
a more recurrent state of mine.

NOW IS THE TIME

My husband says that I’m getting old. Actually, it may have been me who said, “Do you think I am getting old?” And his reply was something like, “Well, you do read the newspaper every day, watch the evening news (often on more than one channel), and wake up early on Sunday mornings to eat a bagel while you watch ‘Meet the Press’. So…yes?”

I always claimed to be the type of person who wasn’t “into politics”. Even as recently as early 2016, I frequently said I didn’t care about caucusing. I would rarely bring up my own political views in public forums, and especially refrained from doing so on social media. (I no longer participate in social medias, so that wouldn’t be a thing for me now anyway.) While I wasn’t into politics, I always voted. The first election in which I was old enough to vote took place in 1996. I was sick as a dog and still made it to the local fire station to cast my ballot. Our rights as citizens of this nation have always felt important to me. I have never been affiliated with any political party. I have always considered myself an independent. I thoroughly research all the candidates and then have previously proclaimed, “I vote for the one who seems the least loserish.” Everything changed for me on November 9th of last year, when I realized with a slap in the face, the importance politics plays in every single aspect of our lives.

After the election, I found out that a few people I knew had voted for Trump. I wanted to know why.  The answers were varied: “Because Hillary thinks abortion is okay.” “Because Hillary’s personality is annoying.” “Because, Hillary’s private servers.” To me, none of those reasons are valid. Donald Trump’s shortcomings bear much more weight and are hugely massive compared with any of those reasons. He has let into his orbit many horrible humans, has thrown rallies filled with hateful rhetoric, and has admitted to groping women, because he has a right as a wealthy man to do so. He’s the worst kind of xenophobic, racist, narcissist — and now he has a world-wide platform and attention for all of his bad behavior. Not only does he have a platform, but he scoots over occasionally to share it with others who should have no place being able to spread their fear and vile words.

After the occurrences last weekend in Charlottesville, I noticed that some people, including Trump, don’t seem to understand what rights The First Amendment protects. The Bill of Rights wasn’t designed to protect the hate speech and incitement of riots by white supremacist groups. They are never out to peaceably assemble. If you have seen or heard any of them speak, you can tell they are a soulless mob and they are armed to the teeth. I’ve heard many news pundits and others claim shock and surprise that Trump seems to be endorsing these groups. I am not surprised at all. Haven’t people been listening to his words for the last two years/decade? People who were hoping he would become more “presidential” once he was actually elected were fools. As my uncle used to say, “People don’t change too goddamn much too goddamn much of the time.” Trump is a zebra who has been showing his stripes since day one.

Now is not the time for silence. Now is not the time to say, “I’m not into politics.” Now is the time for shouting about what we hold dear. We need to band together as citizens of this world to protect the environment, safeguard our children and schools, push for the rights of immigrants and women and healthcare for all. Now is a time for action. We cannot tolerate the aforementioned perversions of democracy. This famous quote I have heard several times recently sends chills down my spine. It should prompt all of us to act. It is from a Nazi survivor named Martin Niemöller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

THIRTIES IN THE REAR-VIEW

I.
In the mid-1980s,
my mom professed her
crush on George Michael.
Being quite young,
I was certain
my middle-aged, Mormon mother
was going to leave
the suburbs of Utah,
her three children and my dad,
move to England,
and set up house
with George Michael.
(In hindsight,
I suppose she would have
been in a relationship with Andrew Ridgeley
of Wham as well)?

II.
Knowing there are others
who feel this way,
think this way,
and want the crush of madness
to stop, is what wakes me up most mornings.
I don’t have news alerts turned on —
I don’t like being reminded
about what’s coming next.
Yet I read voraciously,
like it’s my job.
The words of reporters and authors
are my lifeline.
They say “the struggle is real”,
and many days, I know it has just begun.

III.
I am glad I didn’t turn 40 in 2016.
Last year was filled with death,
depression,
earth-shattering,
life-altering events.
Taking on another decade
would have overwhelmed instantly.
My heart felt stretched in January,
again in April,
and by November’s end,
my lungs headed for collapse.
Put a star on the wall for me.
I was one of the casualties
of the soon-to-be prophesied “American carnage”.
By February,
I rose up, bandaged,
a resurrected, bettered zombie
of my former self —
and this one isn’t putting up with any shit.
Forty is the new 1984.

THE RIVERSIDE SHAKESPEARE

“I say there is no darkness/but ignorance.” — William Shakespeare

Today,
for the first time in more than a decade,
I dislodged The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition
from it’s prominent place
on my bedside table,
and blew a collection of dust from its cover.
Its primary use over the last few years has been:
to prop up my oil diffuser,
make a stand for the Kleenex box,
and create a handy shelf for my smaller book of “Shakespearean Insults”.
I had a love/hate relationship with this
behemoth
all through college.
The love part came
during the late nights of reading
“Macbeth” and “Twelfth Night”
while taking copious notes
in ragged college-ruled binders,
while dreaming up ideas for my next
20-page paper.
The hate part came when I had to lug the
15-pound volume across campus,
up several flights of stairs to the classroom.
(I’m sure I have curvature of the spine to this day.)
I’m re-reading “As You Like It” for the one-hundredth time,
as I will be seeing the play at the Utah Shakespeare Festival
in a few weeks.
I have a stand-alone, sparse copy of “As You Like It”,
but something from the bowels of  The Riverside Shakespeare
called to me.
As I cracked its well-worn binding
and leafed through its vellum-like pages,
all the notes and underlining
came back in a flood.
I used a silver gel pen
and the markings are thin and precise.
Hanging on Will’s words (and play on words) was a hobby of mine.
Only two Shakespeare classes were required for my major:
one tragedy, one comedy.
I took at least three additional,
including an independent study course
on the plays no one wants to read. (“Troilus and Cressida” anyone?)
Delving into Shakespeare’s meanings and teaching them in a concise way
was an expertise of my professor who had her own volumes of knowledge.
I’d been to her home previously,
where guests were greeted in her entryway by a suit of armor.
Her house was a living testament to the finer parts of the Middle Ages.
Reading Shakespeare plays is a difficult fete.
Understanding them is not easy — especially if you haven’t seen the play.
But in the end;
we know Macbeth’s wife cannot get out the damned spot,
we know Romeo & Juliet are destined to die,
we know Puck lurks merrily in the woods creating mischief.
However; I figured out more about myself from Shakespeare
than from any other classes I took in college.
In many ways,
even though Shakespeare’s era was more than 400 years ago,
I feel an indelible connection
to his snark, his wayward characters, and those he makes lovable.
Yet, all the while,
it reminds me of a period in my own life less than 20 years ago,
which was also riddled with
comedy,
tragedy,
darkness,
uncertainty,
and in the end, the brightest light.
The Riverside Shakespeare

POLK AVENUE, 1992

The summer after we moved into the red house on Polk Avenue with the weepingest weeping willow tree, I took over lawn mowing duties from my father. Being the eldest, I slipped right in to the feeling that yard work should somehow be my responsibility. I’ve always had a fear of anything with a whirring blade (table saw, garbage disposal, lawn mower). I knew a kid once who accidentally lost two of his toes, but isn’t that what one deserves for mowing the lawn while barefoot? Despite that underlying, nagging fear; I felt a sense of calm in making perfect paths of clipped grass. If my father was upset that I mangled two sprinkler heads during that time period, he never mentioned it directly to me, but likely muttered heavily about it under his breath.

We had an above-ground pool in the backyard at the house with maroon siding. Our excitement was palpable at the time, though I’m certain now my sister would call this type of backyard adornment “white trash”. Anytime the water temperature was above 68 degrees, which was indicative by a tiny thermometer, my sisters and I warranted it worthy of a swim. I would skim off the water skeeters and the leaves fallen from the nearby tree and once we were in suits and had our fluffy towels, we played games and did somersaults into the shallow depth. We swam almost daily during the summer of 1992.

I sometimes secretly (or not so secretly) miss the days when my friends and I would go to the video rental store and browse the shelves. We would wander the aisles looking at new releases and cult classics. It often took hours to find a movie that wasn’t “all rented out” AND all of us wanted to watch. My friends had certain fall-back movies they always deemed worthy of renting; one of those titles was “Groundhog Day”. I love Bill Murray, but never cared for Andie McDowell. Something about her acting struck me as disingenuous. I can’t imagine waking up to the same day every day. That movie still gives me anxiety.

My freshman year coincided with a centennial celebration for the high school. While the castle-like, art-deco building had only been around for fifty years, the high school itself had existed for ten decades. The innocence of that year — of painting the football field for homecoming, of having a street named after the school, of spending late nights watching “Saturday Night Live”, of having a new crush almost every month — produces in me a sense of happiness and longing for the days of yesteryear.